Initial Publication Date: June 8, 2017

What do geoscientists do?

Jump Down To: Career Descriptions | What degree is needed for different types of careers?

People with geoscience expertise can be found in many parts of the workforce. If there is a job out there with inputs from or effects on Earth or the environment, then there is a geoscientist somewhere filling that role. Just to name a few, there are geoscience professionals in all these and more:

Earth Science Careers: Not Just Rocks

  • Natural resource exploration and production
  • Environmental assessment and remediation
  • Atmosphere, hydrosphere, and natural hazard observation and forecasting
  • Earth system investigation and modeling
  • Education and public outreach
  • Scientific writing, editing, and multimedia production
  • Law, forensics, software development, and public health

Many professional organizations provide information about geoscience careers and the geoscience workforce. Below are a few examples of videos and other resources that describe geoscience careers, including technological careers that require an associates degree. You can find a more extensive list of resources across the geosciences on the Professional Society Career Resources page.

  • The Advanced Technological Education Television (ATETV) site includes short videos on a variety of programs and careers including energy technology, environmental engineering, environmental technology, geographic information sciences, geospatial technology, green technology, water treatment technology, and wind technology.
  • The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center provides information about the knowledge and skills needed for various technical marine occupations including oceanographic instrumentation technicians, hydrographic survey technicians, and marine technicians who work aboard research vessels.
  • The Workforce Program of the American Geosciences Institute include a careers brochure, career videos, career FAQs, profiles of geoscientists, a guide to geoscience careers and employers, and more.
  • The Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists has resources for undergraduate students including details about the profession of engineering geology, environmental geology, and hydrogeology, as well as case histories.
  • includes career profiles, employer profiles, interviews with interesting people, and more.

Another way to explore careers in the geosciences is use the Department of Labor My Next Move website.

Career Descriptions

US Bureau of Labor Statistics

These career summaries from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics's Occupational Outlook Handbook include a description of basic job duties, work environment, salary range, needed qualifications, and job outlook. The Handbook is searchable and provides extensive information across all fields. Other job descriptions not mentioned above include:

Employer and Employee Perspectives

These profile pages from Building Strong Geoscience Departments were created by interviewing employers in a variety of geoscience professions and employees with degrees in geoscience. They can be a valuable source of information for those looking for a career in the geosciences.

Career Profiles

If you don't personally know someone working in the geosciences, it can be difficult to imagine yourself as a geoscientist. This collection of career profiles combines personal descriptions of the individual career paths of many geoscience professionals.

Earth Science Resources: Careers - The Earth Science Resources YouTube channel presents a ton of great information that faculty can share with their students about the geosciences including these profiles of different careers featuring a diverse set of professionals talking about what they do.

What degree is needed for different types of careers?

Geoscience Occupations by Degree
Examples of the degree(s) necessary to qualify for certain kinds of jobs in the geosciences.[creative commons]
Provenance: Karin Kirk, Freelance Science Writer and Geoscientist
Reuse: This item is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license You may reuse this item for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide attribution and offer any derivative works under a similar license.
There are many pathways into the geoscience workforce, ranging from those that require an associates degree to that that require a PhD and post-doctoral experience. The chart below illustrates some of the workforce possibilities for those with different degrees. Of course, the specific requirements for a position might be different for different employers, in different locations, and for geoscientists with different levels of experience. Check out the Geoscience Degrees and Careers page for more information on what kinds of jobs are typically available at particular levels of qualification.